In a June 13 letter to Sorrento’s Town Attorney, East Ascension Drainage Board’s counsel debunked the myth that only Major Drainage work can be done inside two municipalities. EAD lawyer, Cody Martin wrote Matthew Percy, his Sorrento counterpart:
The East Ascension Consolidated Gravity Drainage District No. 1 (the District) is in receipt of your June 5, 2019 letter sent on behalf of the Town of Sorrento through which the town formally demands the District to undertake maintenance and construction of all drainage facilities within its municipal boundaries. Please note that in accordance with applicable law and other sources of legal opinions, the District is not mandated to perform any work upon drainage facilities within the municipal boundaries but can agree to do so if such a request is made by the governing authority of an incorporated municipality.
Sorrento, cash-strapped and desperate, threatened legal action against EA Drainage to have its roadside ditches cleaned out in an effort led by Councilman Donald Schexnaydre who’s withering criticism of the parish has made him few friends. Oft times thwarted by Mayor Mike Lambert, whose deference to Ascension Parish got Sorrento nowhere, Schexnaydre and his council allies pressed the issue.
“What do we have to lose?” the councilman assessed the situation. “Sorrento receives water, increasing in volume with all that building to our west and Gonzales, and we lack the resources to handle it.”
The addition of Robert Debate to Sorrento’s Council, appointed after the resignation of Randi Sutton, gave Schexnaydre another staunch drainage advocate. Lambert, never willing to rock the boat, was overwhelmed by a council united in common cause.
Debate’s mastery of local drainage dates back decades (he has committed the Follett Plan to memory) and he can list “promises made, promises not kept.” The plan justifying the original EAD property tax included a levee around Sorrento.
“We all understand the Drainage Board cannot be forced to undertake any given project,” Debate said. “But Sorrento has been ignored for quite some time as water from other areas of East Ascension drains through our town. As Donald has pointed out, our citizens pay the same taxes as every other east bank resident.”
EA Drainage’s lawyer cited Louisiana Revised Statute 33:1236(2)(c) in concluding that the Board “may, upon request of the governing authority of any incorporated municipality, perform all or part of the repair, maintenance and care of roads, streets, alleys, bridges and culverts and other drainage facilities…” Cody Martin went on to write:
“Once again, to reiterate and make clear, it is the position of (the District) that it has no duty nor is it legally under a mandatory obligation, as implied by the Town of Sorrento, to maintain drainage facilities within the town limits. However, with that being said, please note that (the District) has always and will continue to spend funds and devote resources to major drainage facilities within the Town of Sorrento. Although (the District) cannot isolate and precisely account for each dollar spent on drainage facilities within the municipal limits of the Town of Sorrento without expending great effort; upon researching the matter, (the District) can show that it spends nearly all of, and in many years more than, the funds collected from the taxes paid within the Town of Sorrento on construction of and maintenance drainage facilities that improve drainage within the town.”
The parties are scheduling a conference in the hope of resolution.